It’s amazing to think just how young Australia is. As far as winemaking goes, the country’s oldest winery was only established in 1849. It was around about this time that the Barossa Valley started to become somewhat of melting pot. British gentry and Lutheran emigrants from Prussia were the main imports, hence why we’ve got all these German surnames on Barossa wines.
A young region in winemaking terms it may be, but Barossa is known for its old vines. Penfolds, followed closely by Langmeil, have the oldest surviving vines in the world, and to this day those vines are producing astonishing wines. Langmeil’s 1843 Freedom Shiraz will attest to that.
Barossa Valley now has sixth-generation winegrowing families. It has gone through some torrid times. From 1860 to 1880, over-production was a big problem, and in fact even today is an issue many producers are really struggling with. The Great Depression of the 1930s hit the worldwide economy, but the toughest times were probably the 1970s. Consumer tastes started to lean towards red and white table wines and the fortified market had been dwindling since the 50s. Some family-owned businesses sold up to multinationals and the government helped fund the Vine Pull Scheme to remove old, low-yielding vines. Those that have survived are now priceless.
Today, Barossa Valley is stronger than ever. More than 75% of area planted is under red grape vines, and this is rising. Those gnarly old Grenache and Mourvedre (Mataro/Monastrell) vines, originally used solely for fortified’s, are now being harvested for top-end reds of amazing complexity, and although the fortified production is small, the quality is exceptional. The region is now rightly asserting not only its importance to the Australian wine industry but the inestimable value of its storehouse of century-old vines and historic wineries.
This video shows Langmeil’s James Lindner keeping in touch with his German roots.
Pictured: Historic photo from the Barossa circa 1880s, copyright Langmeil Winery.